City council made the surprising move Monday night to approve a live-in caretaker suite in the McCrae industrial area despite city administration advising against it.
In November, Alan Lebedoff, president of ALX Exploration, asked council to approve a conditional use application that would allow him to build a 232-square-metre caretaker residence inside the warehouse he currently runs at 33 Levich Drive.
City bylaws restrict the size of caretaker residences in industrial areas to 121 metres square as a way of discouraging families from living there.
But Lebedoff argued that he needed the extra space to help attract employees as his industrial supply company grows, in part because of the tight rental housing market in Whitehorse.
“It’s been noted that there was concern over suitability because of lack of amenities such as parks or garbage collection and sidewalks,” Lebedoff said at a city council meeting in November.
“There is an existing country-residential neighbourhood adjoining the service industrial area that does not have garbage collection or sidewalks,” he said.
“This caretaker’s residence will be simply a single family’s residence,” he said, adding that if other families in country-residential lots can manage without these services, so can someone living in his proposed unit.
Lebedoff suggested that other, more creative restrictions could be put in place to discourage large caretakers residences in industrial areas, such as requiring a minimum amount of industrial space be built for every square metre of residential space.
ALX has tenants that require 24-hour access to the industrial property, and having an on-site manager would go a long way to helping improve site security, he said.
“It comes down to a cost effective and efficient use of the building,” he argued.
When it came time for a decision on Monday, council was presented with a recommendation from city administration that it not allow Lebedoff’s application to succeed.
But everyone on council disagreed.
“We do advertise ourselves as a business-friendly community,” said Coun. Betty Irwin.
“We are trying to make it as easy as possible for new businesses and old businesses to locate.”
“I personally think people should be able to live in their businesses. Most businesses owners find that their businesses are not simply an eight to five job. It’s a 24-hour life. Being able to simply walk upstairs and crash in your bed would be a huge help,” she said.
Irwin also pointed out that allowing people to live in their businesses would eliminate the need for driving to and from work, which is in line with the city’s attempts to reduce vehicle travel and greenhouse gas emissions.
Considering the rental vacancy rate, and the prices of houses themselves, there are many businesses and government departments that are having trouble recruiting because of the lack of rental accommodations in the city, Irwin said.
“If an employer can provide a place to live, particularly close to the place of employment, it offers a very desirable perk for the employee. If raising a family in close proximity to a place of business fits the family’s lifestyle, then he or she should be able to make that decision themselves,” she said.
Mayor Dan Curtis pointed out that even though city administration recommended the application be denied, they were only following the city’s rules. It would be up to council to decide whether to make an exception.
“What the proponent has is faith: faith in Whitehorse and faith in the economy. This building has got separate zoning for their in-floor heat … and shows the degree of investment this business has done. I’m really thankful they’ve chosen Whitehorse to invest in.”
Coun. John Streicker proposed amending the recommendation to approve the application, and after some more deliberation about the process, both the amendment and the new recommendation itself passed unanimously.
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